Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Trading Standards: Why Pay When You Don't Have To?


Each month at Trading Standards we receive enquiries about things people have paid for that they could have got for free. In this article, we give advice on where you may be able to save unnecessary expense.

Warranties and Guarantees
When you buy goods, whether on their own (like a washing machine) or as part of a larger piece of work (such as a new bathroom installation), by law those goods must be of “satisfactory quality” and be “fit for their purpose”. They must be of a standard that a person would expect, bearing in mind the price paid, and be free from minor defects, be as described, and last a reasonable length of time for a product of that type. So if, for instance, the normal life of a washing machine is 5 years and yours stops working after two years due to a defect, you may be able to claim for a repair or replacement from the business you bought it from. This is the case regardless of whether you bought a warranty or guarantee. So consider carefully whether a warranty gives you anything extra.

Claiming from your debit card or credit card
If you are in dispute with a trader, instead of taking them to court, find out whether your bank may be able to help you. If you paid for something on a debit card and there turns out to be problems with the purchase, many banks offer a ‘chargeback’ scheme where they refund you. Furthermore, if you pay for something worth over £100 and pay for at least some of it on your credit card, the credit card company is equally as responsible as the business that breaks its contract with you. So, if your holiday isn’t as it was described, if your new dining table arrives damaged, or if your new TV breaks down soon after purchase, you can insist that your credit card provider helps you if the shop won’t. This is even the case if you have paid off the amount you put on your credit card.

Personal Protection Insurance
We have received a number of reports about companies offering to claim compensation for the mis-selling of personal protection insurance on residents’ behalf, whether in relation to a loan, mortgage or credit card. This is actually something you can do yourself. The Financial Ombudsman has produced a leaflet which is available on www.financial-ombudsman.org.uk on how to make the complaint yourself. If you don’t have access to the internet, you can contact the Financial Ombudsman for advice over the telephone on 0800 0234567.

European Health Insurance cards
Even though some companies sell them, you can actually obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) free of charge which entitles you to medical treatment that becomes necessary, at a reduced cost or sometimes free, when visiting a country in the European Union, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein. This is limited to treatment provided under the state scheme and you will need to produce your EHIC card. Visit www.ehic.org.uk to find out more and apply.

Legal advice
There are many sources of free legal advice available to residents. Trading Standards, in partnership with Consumer Direct, offers advice to residents on issues with businesses. Visit www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/consumer to see how we can help you or call us on 0845 4040506.  The Citizens Advice Bureaux offer advice on a wide range of issues including debt, benefits, employment, housing and family issues. Visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk or call 08444 111 444. Also, many people can get free legal advice under their home insurance policies; check yours to see if you can get assistance.